When I attended the Web Summit in Lisbon last year, I was having trouble getting a straightforward flight. So, I decided to take advantage of the proximity to other countries in Europe plus the fact that I had never been to France, and route myself through Paris for a one day layover. I only had 24 hours there though, so I was going to make the most of it!
Trust me, I know this list is A LOT TO DO! I did not tour inside many of these famous attractions. You could spend hours, or even days, at any of them and make this quite a longer trip. Since I was by myself, I was in complete control of my travels – which made it easier to speed up or slow down as needed. What I packed into a day could easily be spread out, especially with kids. A long weekend, for sure. *I* was out for maximum exposure within walking distance within the short time I had!
Itinerary for 24 Hours in Paris Layover
Hotel & Airport
First, where to stay? If, like me, you have a quick layover, I highly recommend the Sheraton at Charles de Gaulle airport. It is reasonably priced (€200-220 per night) and right in Terminal 2, where the trains leave all day for downtown Paris.
Tip: You will have to re-enter security from the hotel into the airport. I cut it a bit close not thinking about this! Also, remember that Charles De Gaulle is one of the largest airports in the world and confusing. Even if you do speak French (I don’t), you may need help finding your way. Luckily for me, a fellow passenger got me into the right escalator. (Reminds you of the Harry Potter staircases, right?)
Otherwise, the world is your oyster in terms of Paris hotels – there is something for everyone!
Train to Paris
Take the RER-B (Blue line) from Charles De Gaulle to the Saint-Michel/Notre Dame stop. My path takes you from Notre-Dame to the Eiffel Tower, but you could easily go the opposite way. Take note of the train/metro schedules and when the ones you will need stop running. I stayed out too late and ended up taking an Uber back to the airport. (Completely worth the €50, by the way). RER are the regional express trains and are designated by letters, while Metro stops inside the city have numbers.
Overview Map of The Route
Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris
No visit to Paris would be complete without a stop at this iconic cathedral. Since I arrived mid-day and the lines were long, I did not do the tour. But you can prepare for your visit at the Notre-Dame Cathedral web site (although you may not pre-purchase tickets). It’s €10 for adults and free for under 18 years of age. It’s absolutely worth a stop even if you don’t go inside… to marvel at this incredible example of architecture and the very first to use flying buttresses.
The oldest standing bridge across the river Seine and a crossroads of sorts.
The Lourve Art Museum
I would have loved to see Mona Lisa (although I hear it’s a great deal smaller than we imagine) and all the other treasures housed at the Louvre, but just walking around in the courtyard and out to the glass pyramid is worth a stop. The famed museum is closed on Tuesdays and costs €15 for visitors over 18.
Walk through this public garden as you leave the Louvre and head towards the Champs Elysees and the Arc Triomphe.
Photo by: Wuestenigel on Flickr
This 3,000 year old Egyptian obelisk stands 75 feet tall and is pretty awe-inspiring , especially at night.
Fontaines de la Concorde
This pair of fountains flank the Luxor Obelisk – one is named des Mers (for the maritime industry) and one des Fleuves (for navigation).
Winston Churchill Statue
I am a WWII buff and fan of this English leader, so his statue was an easy stop on my walking tour.
Photo by: Chabe01 on Wikimedia Commons
Another gorgeous, historic building that itself could deserve an afternoon visit. The “Grand Palais des Champs-Elysees” has been used for an exhibition place, an army hospital and now a museum.
Photo by: Calips on Wikimedia Commons
Meander up the most famous avenue in the world for a taste of shops, restaurants and the hustle-bustle of Paris.
Arc de Triomphe
Located at the western end of the Champs-Elysees at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, this arc is one of the most famous monuments in the world. It honors those who fought in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars as well as houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI. I stood there watching traffic fly by, trying to figure out how to actually get to the Arc! I finally asked someone and there is an underground tunnel on the Avenue de la Grande Armee side of the circle. You can enter this tunnel from the Wagram exit of the Metro.
Place du Trocadero
It’s about 20 minutes by foot from the Arc de Triomphe to Trocadero. By this time, I needed a rest, so I engaged one of the many readily available pedicabs. I highly suggest this plan, because it’s fun, it places you at a great vantage point to see the Eiffel Tower from a distance *and* then you can walk across the Pont d’Iéna bridge yourself, which saves a ton of time/money if you were to try and get a taxi directly to the Eiffel Tower. (Take a look at my map above and you’ll see what I mean.)
When I started planning this trip, the ONLY thing on my list was the Eiffel Tower. “If I have time for just one thing, THAT’S IT.” The structure is just as impressive during the day, but I really loved it at night. As you can see from my photos, I had some rain, so the atmosphere was really moody and when the Eiffel Tower lit up the night, it was magic. Ticket prices vary based on age and whether you want to go to the second floor or the top. You can buy them in advance via the official site, which I plan to do… because, second time around… “If I only have time for one thing, I WILL GET TO THE TOP OF THE EIFFEL TOWER.”
Dinner River Cruise
After all that walking, I knew I would want to just relax and eat (and drink). I also liked the idea of someone driving me down the Seine to review many of the famous sights I had just flew by. I chose the Bateux Parisiens dinner cruise with a window view and it was exactly what I needed. Many people were dressed up for dinner, so I did feel a bit grubby after a full day of walking, but I was by myself with a bottle of French wine… c’est la vie! My dinner was delicious and the view divine. Tip: Whichever cruise you may purchase, pay attention to the pier you are supposed to go to. I waited in line for a while and almost got on a sightseeing boat rather than my dinner cruise.
It was the perfect end to my long, wonderful day in Paris.
Photo by: Bateux Parisiens
Getting Back to Airport
As I mentioned, I just had never even considered that the trains might stop running at a certain time in Paris. Somehow I missed that little detail: most discontinue service around midnight-1am. So I ended up taking an Uber from the Eiffel Tower (where the dinner cruise dropped me back off) to the airport hotel. But, if you want a cheaper alternative, you could walk to either the Champs De Mars Tour Eiffel or Pont de l’Alma RER-C station (whichever you are closer to), ride the yellow line to St. Michel/Notre Dame and then transfer to the RER-B blue line back to Charles de Gaulle.
Whew. That was a lot to do in Paris!
Yup. I know. As I mentioned, I powered through and did the most I could and only skimmed the surface. This itinerary could easily be turned into a 2-day or 3-day trip in Paris.
I hope you find it helpful and please let me know in the comments what I may have missed!